BOSTON (CBS) – Boris is blind in one eye with a pronounced limp. Elizabeth is in better health – but quite timid.
Both are among the handful of dogs brought to Massachusetts from a 10 acre farm in western New Jersey last week.
That’s where investigators seized 188 terriers and dachshunds – some visibly sick – living in deplorable conditions.
“I think this is probably one of those rare situations where things went really, really wrong,” says Julia Pesek of the MSPCA.
But the thing that is especially troubling in this case, is that the breeders are not some “no name” couple. Martin Strozeski and Marcia Knoster boasted dozens of American Kennel Club winners – and a 2009 Westminster champion.
Indeed, the couple’s Rocky Ridge Kennels in rural Stockton, NJ claimed a “Best in Breed” blue ribbon at the world’s most prestigious dog show, only to be shut down a decade later, by investigators who are now contemplating animal cruelty charges against them.
Almost two dozen animals were found dead, providing a glimpse at what can happen away from the bright lights of the show ring.
Breeder Strozeski told the New York Times that when the economy went sour a decade ago, he “couldn’t give them away” and his “hobby turned bad.”
“I can’t imagine what happened in their life that things took such a turn for the worse,” says Pesek. “It’s just unfortunate and heartbreaking for the animals and the people.”
The dogs that came to Massachusetts spent days in quarantine – for illness, skin infections and parasites. Now, they just need a bath, and some time to adjust to being the center of attention.
“It’s so rewarding to see them looking happy and just being dogs,” says Pesek.
The folks who run the Westminster Dog Show say they’re “saddened” – but insist they’ve promoted “responsible dog breeding” for more than a century.
For the dogs now farmed out to animal welfare organizations in several states, better times are ahead.
“We’re going to be able to pick the most amazing families that are a perfect match for them,” says Pesek. “So that’s really rewarding.”
In fact, the MSPCA says it won’t be surprised if applications to adopt the seven dogs brought to Massachusetts – number in the hundreds.
If you’d like adopt a dog – or just want to donate to their care – call the MSPCA [(617) 522-7400] or check their website.